First death from vaping in Illinois has local physicians concerned

"There is a lot unknown about it.  We need to have tighter regulations once we have more data available."

Fred Bodimer
August 27, 2019 - 3:43 am

Local physicians renew their concerns about vaping -- in light of last week's first reported death from vaping in Illinois. 

On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced it had learned of the death of an adult individual who had recently vaped and was hospitalized with severe respiratory illness. 

"At this time we don't have additional information on the product that has been smoked," said Dr. Jennifer Layden with the IDPH.

 In addition to the one death, Illinois health officials say the number of people who have been hospitalized with respiratory illness after vaping doubled to 22 in the past week. Their ages range from 17-38 years. Another 12 cases are being investigated in Illinois.  

"We know that all the cases have reported using an e-cigarette," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "We are working really closely with the CDC, with the local health departments and the FDA to specifically identify which products and compounds might be linked to those cases."

The FDA's Mitch Zeller says they have received some product samples from a number of the states where the cases are being reported.

"We've started to analyze those samples for their contents to see whether they contain nicotine or substances such as THC, cannabinoids or other chemicals and ingredients," said Zeller.

SSM Health family medicine physician Dr. Jennifer Wessels is worried.

"Vaping can be harmful or potentially harmful -- especially to young kids," said Dr. Wessels, the VP of Medical Affairs for the SSM Health Medical Group.  "There are substances like nicotine that could be in them that can adversely affect the body."

Dr. Mohsin Ehsan, a pulmonologist at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles agrees.

"There can be potentially life-threatening complications related to vaping," Dr. Ehsan tells KMOX.  "There is a lot unknown about it.  We need to have tighter regulations once we have more data available."

Respiratory symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue.  Some also have had vomiting and diarrhea.  The IDPH says symptoms worsened for the Illinois patients over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital.

So why is vaping so attractive to young people?  

"The new vaping devices are more hip and they look like a USB -- which can be easily overlooked," said Dr. Ehsan.  "That is the primary reason -- plus the way it is advertised.  And with all the flavoring, it makes vaping more attractive to younger kids."
No single vaping product or compound has been linked to all of the cases....and officials say it's not clear if there's a common cause. or if they are different diseases with similar symptoms.

More information about e-cigarettes, vapes, and JUULs can be found on the IDPH website.

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